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By Jan White and Chris Edwards
On May 20, law enforcement officers received a tip of a cockfighting event located on private property in the Davy Crockett National Forest. Officers from the Houston County Sheriff’s Office, Grapeland P.D., Crockett P.D., and Texas Parks & Wildlife responded.
Seventeen male suspects were detained. After conducting an investigation, 10 were arrested and charged with cockfighting, which is a state jail felony in Texas.
Class C misdemeanors were also filed against the spectators. Ten vehicles were towed; one vehicle, cockfighting equipment, and thirty-six live roosters were seized, along with a large sum of money.
The men arrested and charged with cockfighting include Andrew Flores; Carlos Munoz Gonzalez; Ignacio Jay Garcia; Jesus Jasso; Jose Manuel Lemus; Juan Luis Rocha; Leonardo Gomez Arnjo; Orlando Martinez Toledo; Raphael Francisco Lemus and Patrick Carl Wilkinson.
Houston County Sheriff Randy Hargrove said after the arrests were made, “If you fight roosters in Houston County, you’re gonna lose more than just the fight.”
In a related story, KTRE News reported that on Saturday night, May 21, the Alto Police Department and Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office responded to a cockfight that was taking place in adjoining Cherokee County.
The cockfight occurred on County Road 2638. Officer identified fifty participants and seized property, including nine trailers, a truck, and ninety-seven roosters, which authorities hope to rehome.
Cherokee County Sheriff Brent Dickson said, “The people who take part in cockfighting come from all backgrounds and walks of life, even some who are in high profile positions. There’s a lot of people involved in this that you wouldn’t think about.”
Dickson stated that winners of these fights could walk away with as much as $50,000 from the illegal gambling operation. “There’s a large cash flow through these operations,” Dickson said. “I believe this one they were charging $1,000 for six birds, and everybody pays that to get in to fight their birds, so that makes a pretty good purse at the end of the night.” According to Dickson, these cockfighting rings are getting more common, and the Sheriff’s office is actively working to locate and bring the offenders to justice. Arrests will be made within the next week for the individuals identified in the Saturday raid.
“For us, it’s bringing a lot of unwanted people into our county,” Dickson said. “We don’t need any extra drugs, guns, or violence here. We’ve got our own. We don’t need to bring it in from outside.”
Following the arrests, Marty Irby, who serves as executive director for the Animal Wellness Action group applauded the actions of HCSO for taking action.
“Cockfighting runs rampant in Texas as we’ve seen in case after case over the past few years,” Irby said.
“This gruesome bloodsport is not only cruel, but is a serious risk to both human and poultry health as fighting birds can easily spread Avian influenza,” he added.
The Animal Wellness Action group has led the charge against cockfighting, nationwide, and has been pressing federal law enforcement at the Department of Justice to enforce federal laws against the sport, with felony-level penalties.
Recently, the group released undercover footage of a government official in Guam engaging in cockfighting, and U.S. investigations have led to multiple indictments.
Irby added that the onus is on local, state and federal authorities to prosecute